Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

Emma is a picky dater who seeks the “spark”. When one of her closest friends breaks her spark-o-meter with their first kiss, she knows he’s someone to hold onto.

What’s it About? 

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Wedding florist Emma Grant gets to play with flowers every day and work with her three best friends in the process. She couldn’t ask for a better job. And her love life seems to be thriving. Though men swarm around her, she still hasn’t found Mr. Right. And the last place she’s looking is right under her nose.

But that’s just where Jack Cooke is. He’s so close to the women of Vows that he’s practically family. Now though, the architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. And when Emma returns his passion—kiss for blistering kiss, they must trust in their history—and in their hearts…

First Impressions

Whenever we have a romance featuring friends who become something more intimate, the most enchanting feature is uncovering that one moment where things change. Perhaps one finally sees an alluring physical quality they hadn’t noticed before; maybe it’s a moment of comfort following a difficult situation, or hell, maybe it’s just copious amounts of alcohol and a good rain storm. Unfortunately we don’t really see any of that here. Emma and Jack have been mutually attracted to each other for some time now, though neither has voiced their inner desires aloud due to the close nature of their immediate friend group. I was wondering what key moment would have sparked these two into action after so many years of silent yearning.

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However, we really don’t get a sudden light-bulb moment of attraction. There’s no surprising burst of passion that draws them both up in the moment where they can’t keep their hands off each other. Instead we see them slowly start to flirt more than they had before, with no one clear reason coming to the forefront to explain why now was suddenly different than before. They have logical discussions about what it would mean to start dating…and then they do. Don’t get me wrong, there are some steamy moments built in there, but it wasn’t quite the startling unexpected switch from friends to lovers I was expecting. We never really get an answer to the question of, “why now”?

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There’s Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

While Jack and Emma’s years of friendship allow them to settle quite naturally into a physical relationship, they both have some crippling fears which prevent them from opening up whole-heartedly. Jack has never been one for serious relationships, so his fear of commitment has quietly seeped into his interactions with Emma. He definitely cares for her (that is never part of the issue), but rather his inner struggle of where he sees this relationship leading to in the future. As for our heroine, she’s afraid to admit how much she truly loves Jack in case he should see it as a reason to put their developing relationship on hold. Beyond this though there’s also the insinuation that Emma fears that which doesn’t live up to her ideal. She works in a high-demand industry which requires perfection. It seems when her personal life has an aspect that isn’t perfect, she cuts it out of her life. If a kiss or a date didn’t score high on her “spark-o-meter” she knew it was a done deal, and she’d do whatever she could to set the guy up with another woman.

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We also see this play out in her relationship with Jack towards the end of the book. When he doesn’t welcome her presence into his home after a long and trying day, it sparks an argument that finally reveals how much she loves him, yet also doesn’t feel welcome in his home. It doesn’t just stop at an argument, but rather escalates to the point where she breaks off their relationship, demanding that he not speak to or seek her out to resolve things. He wasn’t meeting her expectations of feeling fully incorporated into his life, so rather than discuss how they might move to remedy that situation, she takes the fast approach to just ending things completely. While her frustrations were warranted, it seemed like a rather rash decision to try and remove him from her life. The question then becomes if Jack will be able to move past his fear of commitment to acknowledge what she truly means to him, and find the strength to win her back.

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Series: Bride Quartet, book 2. This sequel has started laying the groundwork for our final 2 romances. While one seems like it will be somewhat of a repeat of this story line where longtime friends become something more, I can’t wait to see what fun might ensue when meticulous planner Parker falls for a local mechanic.

Final Impressions: Overall I’d say I liked this second novel much more than the first one. It still focused on the wedding planning details a bit too much for my taste, but was a significant reduction compared to book one. This is probably a good series for soon-to-be brides to read in order to see how much care and attention goes into the behind-the-scenes support of a wedding. Not to mention things to keep in mind to avoid being labeled MB (monster bride), or heaven forbid upgraded to MBB status (monster bitch bride). Ultimately the bond of friendship between the four ladies of this wedding planning business is really coming to the forefront as the most endearing and entertaining characteristic of the series.

Smut Level: We get some passionate moments mixed in that will make you clap your hands in delight, but nothing over the top erotic that will make you fan yourself off from the heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 370 Pages

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Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

Jumping out of a plane in general doesn’t hold much appeal for me. Doing it with a raging fire burning below? No thank youuuuu!

What’s it About? 

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Little else in life is as dangerous as fire jumping. But there’s also little else as thrilling—at least to Rowan Tripp. Being a Missoula smoke jumper is in Rowan’s blood: her father is a legend in the field. At this point, returning to the wilds of Montana for the season feels like coming home—even with reminders of the partner she lost last season still lingering in the air.

One of the best of this year’s rookie crop, Gulliver Curry is a walking contradiction, a hotshot firefighter with a big vocabulary and a winter job at a kids’ arcade. And though Rowan, as a rule, doesn’t hook up with other smoke jumpers, Gull is convinced he can change her mind…

But everything is thrown off balance when a dark presence lashes out against Rowan, looking to blame someone for last year’s tragedy. Rowan knows she can’t complicate things with Gull—any distractions in the air or on the ground could be lethal. But if she doesn’t find someone she can lean on when the heat gets intense, her life may go down in flames.

First Impressions

This book has three main areas of focus. 1) The developing romance between Rowan and Gull, 2) the mystery person who seems intent on blaming Rowan for the death of her jump partner the year before, and 3) the logistics and intricacies of jumping fire. While points one and two were entertaining, I must say I felt there was almost too much focus on the details of jumping fire, as well as the process involved to put out a forest fire. Now, I know what you’re thinking. The book is called Chasing Fire, what the hell did you expect the book to be about?!

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I know, I know, I should have expected some background information as to what that involved, but after awhile it just got to be too much. One too many metaphors comparing the fire to a dragon, cutting off the head and tail, flanking it, jumping it, drowning it, cutting down trees with saws, etc, etc. Let’s just say if you wanna know the ins and outs of putting out a forest fire, this is definitely the book for you. I could definitely appreciate the hard work and research which undoubtedly went into making these details as accurate as possible, but it almost overtook the book at times.

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Coming Together Through Fire

It might be against Rowan’s personal code to get intimately involved with a fellow fire jumper, but we all knew it was just a matter of time before she and Gull went for a tumble in the sheets. All that heat and adrenaline was all the kindling that was needed to set their loins a burnin’. Ok, ok, enough with the fire+sex puns. While Rowan was insistent in the beginning that nothing could happen between them, as the summer progresses and the dangers of fire and their mystery assailant continue to grow, Rowan and Gull developed a kind of connection and closeness which was deeper than that between mere teammates.

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Gull is determined to protect Rowan from whoever is taunting and blaming her for the death of her former teammate the year before. As the threats against her grow in intensity, I must say I appreciated that they didn’t just sit back and wait for the cops to give them information about the case. Although hell, considering how quickly gossip and info spreads in this small Montana town they really didn’t need the cops at all to start contemplating possible suspects and motives! While they didn’t necessarily do their own sleuthing (which would have seemed unrealistic given their strenuous day job), they did plenty of their own hypothesizing. They were very logical with their thought processes, but almost too methodical at times. Whenever they would come together to discuss possible culprits, they almost lacked emotion in their exchanges, as though they were reading from a list of clues from top to bottom. It was a bit too robotic at times.

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From opening bell I identified three main suspects as to who I thought might be behind Rowan’s torment. One is murdered fairly early on, so that narrowed it down a bit. The cops in the novel were so focused on one particular character, and you couldn’t help but feel that the answer can’t be that cut and dry. Once we do finally uncover the identity of the killer, and said killer is subdued (let’s face it we’re dealing with happy endings here), I can’t say it was incredibly satisfying. It was actually kind of a tragic conclusion. We see what can happen when someone is overcome with pain and the loss of a loved one. It can drive them to do crazy things, and commit heinous acts, all in the name of love or justice. Gull manages to show a bit of sympathy towards this villain, which was really quite endearing. As for Rowan though, she always has been and always will be a tough-as-nails woman. The way she sees it, this person put her team in danger, and threatened the lives of her comrades. She’s one to constantly look forward rather than back, so in her mind it’s not something to cry about. I can appreciate her strength in the face of all this danger, but her response was also a tad heartless when all was said and done.

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Tales of Romance

This book was kind of loooong. There was a side story of romance involving Rowan’s father and his new lady love that felt somewhat unnecessary in my opinion. I mean, good on ya buddy for finding a woman to make you happy, both in and outside of the bedroom, but what does this have to do with the overall story? We see how there’s an attempt to link it back to Rowan, and her inability to cope with another woman in her father’s life. I won’t necessarily try to bring Freud into the discussion here…but Gull certainly did! I did find it funny that the romance between Rowan and Gull was, in a way, less romantic than the other one we see playing out with her father. For Gull and Rowan, their relationship definitely starts off as a horny itch that needs scratching. They do respect each other, and there’s a definite admiration for the other’s strength and ability to jump fire. However, at the end of the day there was something lacking in their exchanges that just didn’t make me feel all warm and tingly.

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Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: In a word I’d say it was an ok read. It starts and ends on a suspenseful and fiery note, but some of the central story elements started to feel repetitive after a while. The identity of our mystery villain wasn’t too big of a surprise, although I will say I was surprised at how emotional this read became at the end. If this book were 100 pages shorter I think it could have been a big improvement.

Smut Level: You’d think these two would be too exhausted to get down and dirty after jumping fire, but it seems they can always find a bit of extra strength. They also have the delightful tendency for shower sex. Nothing like washing off the dirt and grime of one blaze merely to start another blaze between them.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 481 pages.

The Search by Nora Roberts

This is a tale of intrigue, murder, and a copy cat killer on the loose. And yet, I must say I found one of the most disturbing scenes in this novel to revolve around a soft drink. At one point a friend of our main character goes over to her house and is offered a cold beverage, at which point the friend requests a Coca-Cola. Our female lead responds that she just has Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. And the friend…proceeds…to drink it. Now, whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi I think we can all view this scene as an affront to human nature! You can’t just flip flop between the two!! Let alone accept diet when you wanted regular (for the record Coca-Cola is the best).

What’s it About?

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To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s an intensely private wood artist and the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy named Jaws. As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

First Impression

This novel presents us with a rather odd blend of romantic comedy and murder mystery. On the one hand, we have Fiona, our strong-willed dog trainer who happens to find love with a new client who is having trouble with a rambunctious puppy. On the flip side, a killer has his sights set on Fiona, as she escaped from the clutches of this copycat’s mentor years before. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of disorienting to be laughing at the crazy antics of our untrained puppy while also remaining fearful of the evil we know is lurking in the background. Personally I felt the novel focused a bit too much on the light-hearted romance aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute romantic comedy, and it was refreshing at times to be presented with another funny furry shenanigan after a rather brutal murder scene. However, it was also jarring to have so many cute scenes, and then suddenly switch gears to a short chapter involving our demented killer. In my opinion, the novel would have benefited from a more evened balance of romance vs. suspense.

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Give it To Me Straight

Now, I know what you all are wondering. Sure, we have a killer out there terrorizing young college females out for solitary runs through the woods. But…do any of the dogs die? Don’t lie, that’s exactly what you were wondering! Well, to all those pet lovers out there, let me take this moment to give you a brief spoiler alert so you know whether or not to give this novel a chance. When it comes to the question of whether or not any beloved canines lose their lives, the answer is…sort of. Ok, yes, a dog dies. BUT! We only hear a quick retelling of a story where a dog dies by getting shot. It’s not a dog that we develop any emotional connection to. That being said, if you’re anything like my mom, I’m sure some of you will see this as a reason to avoid this book entirely. However, trust me when I say you can get past it! The dogs in this story are adorable, strong and heroic. You might even pick up on a few training techniques, so it just might be worth the read!

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Red Scarf Killer 2

While our killer was in no means a fun character to be around, I felt that we didn’t get enough of a focus on him to truly understand his drive behind these killings. When it comes to the original killer, we are presented with a clear motive which revolves around a troubled childhood and a neglectful mother. For our copycat though, we are briefly introduced to a familial undercurrent, but the desire for fame and celebrity status apparently overrides all else. However, considering he hadn’t committed any crimes before coming into contact with this original killer, it seemed like we missed the driving force, the impetus if you will, behind why he felt the need to suddenly carry out such violent and devious crimes. Unless the true reason really was to make a name for himself. In which case…well that’s just freakin’ depressing.

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The Final Confrontation

In the midst of all our puppy training and developing romance, we know that the whole book is gearing up to a final confrontation between Fiona and the copycat killer who has slowly been making his way closer and closer to her island sanctuary. Our killer starts out his murderous spree in the exact image of his mentor, but as things progress he diverges more and more from the original killer’s teachings, and his killings become increasingly violent. Consider yourself warned that some scenes are pretty disturbingly graphic, dealing with the killer’s dark desires surrounding pain, torture, and even rape. When we finally get to the ultimate confrontation between Fiona and our copycat killer, I must say it wasn’t as climactic of a final face-off as I was expecting.

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Kind of a let down considering we spent the last 400 pages or so waiting around for it to come about. I will say though, in the end it was probably more realistic that Fiona wouldn’t be caught alone and unawares to be kidnapped by a psychotic killer for a second time in her life. Pretty much from page 1 we see how Fiona is the ultimate bad ass, trained in self-defense, and is constantly surrounded by her three loving canines who would do anything to protect her. Throughout the novel I became increasingly worried that we would ultimately be confronted with a scenario where Fiona would suddenly be found separated from her dogs, friends and new lover to be left as a sitting duck for our Red Scarf Killer. While that doesn’t happen, and our female lead does retain her bad ass status when eventually confronted with the killer, it made for a less exciting finish than I was expecting after so much build-up. In the end, the confrontation ends pretty quickly, and without much mystery or surprise.

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Series: Stand-alone.

Should you read it? Oddly enough, we probably could have removed the killer element completely from this story, and still have been left with a perfectly well-rounded romantic comedy. It was kind of bizarre to have this darker murderous element built in at such seemingly random times. In the end I’d have to say the biggest setback to this being a well-balanced suspenseful romance was the length of the novel. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, and with a handful less dog training scenes, it would have been damn-near perfect. The lead characters, both human and canine, have extremely strong and loving personalities. At times our male lead is a bit too fearful of admitting his feelings of love and commitment to Fiona, but in the end they have a special bond that even a killer can’t break.

Smut Level: You’d think it’d be tough for these two to find a moment alone, considering all the dogs constantly surrounding them. But…well that’s the benefit of a shower, now isn’t it?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. $5.88 Hardcover Price. Berkley Publishing. 497 Pages.

Vision in White by Nora Roberts

Well, I feel like I now know more about the wedding business, and everything that goes into planning a wedding than I ever wanted or needed to know.

What’s it About?

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Wedding photographer Mackensie “Mac” Elliot is most at home behind the camera, but her focus is shattered moments before an important wedding rehearsal when she bumps into the bride-to-be’s brother…an encounter that has them both seeing stars.

A stable, safe English teacher, Carter Maguire is definitely not Mac’s type. But a casual fling might be just what she needs to take her mind off bridezillas. Of course, casual flings can turn into something more when you least expect it. And Mac will have to turn to her three best friends-and business partners-to see her way to her own happy ending.

First Impressions

Mkay, so full disclosure here: I have no desire to ever have a big wedding. Not saying I have anything against those who do, far from it! I just know it would stress me out waaaay too much (aka I’m lazy as hell), and personally I’d rather save the money and go on like, a series of amazing honeymoons for the next 5 years, and probably spend the same amount of money. Therefore, the fact I chose to read a novel about a woman who has a wedding planning business with her three friends might seem like a strange pick. But this is Nora Roberts we’re talking about here! The legend of all legends! Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say I was rather disappointed with this read.

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OMG, WTF?!

Firstly, way too much attention was placed on such minute details of the weddings these business savvy women were planning. From the drama between the BM and MoH, to the annoyingly picky MoB, not to mention the FFIL, FG, FoB, FoG, GM, SOs and MILs, I’m sorry to say I don’t give a flying bouquet of baby’s breath the hell is going on behind the scenes. It was like an acronym nightmare I couldn’t escape from!!

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On top of this plethora of letters being thrown at you, you have to sit and read about the flowers, decorations, cake design, run-throughs, rehearsals and brunches. Add in the fact that Mac is the photographer, and you’ve got the joys of lighting, feet placement, tipping chin up, down, turning slightly to the left, arm around her…zzzzzzzz.

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Fear of Commitment…Sure

The other feature of this novel I wasn’t a huge fan of was Mac! Her parents divorced when she was young, and have since remarried multiple times. It’s kind of easy to see why Mac herself would be hesitant of commitment, or not necessarily believe in happily ever afters. But then you have Carter. The sweetest, most caring and lovable man ever, who has had a crush on Mac since high school, and he just happens to be well-endowed. And he knows to use it (hint hint wink wink). But! He’s a teacher. A high school teacher at a prestigious local academy, and she actually uses that as a reason to not only initially avoid going out with him, but also push him away later! Like he was somehow less worthy because of what he did for a living. What the hell Mac?! Totally honorable profession!!

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Series: Bride Quartet, book 1. I’ll give one more a try, but if it’s still more of the same wedding planning details I don’t know how long I’ll last.

Should you read it? No joke, if you added everything up I think you’d have more pages devoted to wedding details than discussing Mac and Carter’s relationship. Personally, I found it boring. If you wanna plan weddings, or find that sort of thing intriguing, you’ll probably find it quite helpful.

Smut Level: Nothing too overly graphic. A scene here or there, but nothing to blush over.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Jove Publishing. 353 Pages.